It could be early 2022 before the majority of people in the Republic are vaccinated against Covid19, according to an infectious disease expert.
The three-stage rollout plan was announced yesterday, with nursing homes and large hospitals set to be the first to benefit.
The Health Minister said it could start by the end of the year, as EU regulators meet earlier than planned to discuss approval.
It comes as a further eight deaths and 329 new cases of the virus were recorded here yesterday, 12 in Kilkenny with seven in Carlow.
The number of patients being treated for the virus at St Luke’s Hospital’s fallen slightly, though the facility still has the highest figure in the country at 29. One person was admitted for it in the past day while there are three people in critical care there and a further two suspected cases.
Consultant in Infectious Diseases, Professor Jack Lambert, says it could be some time before herd immunity is achieved.
Best estimates say the general population won’t start getting vaccinated against Covid19 until April.
The government unveiled its plans yesterday and President of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union Daragh O’Loughlin says it could be next June before it’s rolled out all across the country.
He’s told KCLR that it all depends on how quickly the vaccines are delivered but it will take time, noting “I don’t want to say it’s a long way off and I don’t want to say it’s imminent because nobody knows exactly yet when it will be but realistically I’d say most people won’t be getting their vaccines until probably after the end of March into April and it could be May and June before we have vaccines across the country, that really is dependent on the rate the manufacturers can deliver them”.
The Government’s planning to start with 1,500 trained vaccination staff to administer the jabs.
Mr O’Loughlin says “The training is around the specifics of the vaccine so the specific handling requirements because it’s a new product, the specific storage or handling requirements if it needs to be diluted or reconstituted and then everybody who’s involved in vaccinations continually does refresher training on how to deal with anaphylactic allergic reactions, how to do CPR and basic first aid”.
Patients were treated in the car park of the largest hospital in Co Antrim yesterday because of the pressure of the pandemic.
It and the neighbouring Causeway hospital in Coleraine treated a record number of in-patients with Covid-19 in the last 24 hours.
Yesterday the Northern Trust hospital group had admitted a record 126 patients with Covid-19 — filling a quarter of the beds in its two acute hospitals.
But 96 of them were at the Antrim Area Hospital.
But another 43 people were waiting to be admitted after turning up to the casualty department.
They all had to be tested for Covid-19 so that they could be sent to the Covid or non-Covid area of the hospital.
And as the pressure mounted throughout the day, ambulances started to build up outside.
That peaked at 4pm, when 17 of them were parked up with their engines running
Inside them were patients who’d got as far as the hospital, but couldn’t be brought inside.
In a statement, a spokesman for the hospital group said: “That is not a satisfactory situation in anybody’s book.”
486 more people tested positive in the latest official statistics, and six more patients have died.
The Northern Executive is set to discuss stronger restrictions on Thursday.
In the UK
London and other parts of south England are now living under the toughest Covid19 restrictions.
The areas have been moved into their Tier 3, after a sharp rise in cases.
Restaurants and bars there can now only operate takeaway services.
Chief Executive of UK hospitality, Kate Nicholls, says the current support being offered by the government is nowhere near enough.
Meanwhile, staff at a mass vaccination centre in Cardiff have tested positive for Covid19 just days after it opened.
It comes as new testing sites open around the city due to a surge in cases.
The local Health Board in Wales hasn’t confirmed which centre was affected but says anyone identified as a close contact would be asked to self-isolate.